A small, discreetly luxurious hotel, world-class wines and winning food: these are the things that keep pulling me back to the Franz Keller family estate in Germany’s Black Forest. Each of my trips to the village of Vogtsburg, in the heart of Baden’s Kaiserstuhl wine region, has been a gastronomic treat. The Keller name has always stood for quality allied to innovation, and this applies equally to its vinous and culinary offerings. I’ve long had a soft spot for the main restaurant, Schwarzer Adler, where Michelin-starred food is served in an elegant, wood-panelled room by a team of smiling, dirndl-clad ladies. For something simpler – especially for my springtime fix of white asparagus with the region’s smoky ham – I favour Rebstock, the cosy gastropub across the street. But the newer Kellerwirtschaft now tops the other two in my affections.
When Fritz Keller – Franz’s son, who now heads the family enterprise – told his wife he wanted to include a restaurant in his plans for a brand-new winery on the edge of the village, she apparently begged him not to, on the grounds that they had two already. “But there was this great big, beautiful space,” he explains. “It would have been a crime not to take advantage of it.” He’s right: both the space and its location are unbeatable. The sleek, modern eatery is stacked on top of the gleaming new winery, which in turn is built discreetly into the hillside. From the huge terrace that looks out over the winery roof – cunningly disguised with its carpet of wild flowers – I treasure the wraparound views of the vineyards beyond, especially on the golden autumn days the region is blessed with. The views are equally good from inside, where chunky wooden tables combine with Vitra-design chairs and raw-concrete walls, one of which is hung with a vast mural that reverberates with the heat and light of the volcanic Kaiserstuhl region.
Most of all I love the clever take on local, seasonal food with an international flavour. The small menu evolves constantly, but if the homemade suckling pig ravioli (€17) or the scallops with Italian-inspired sweet-sour butternut squash (€17) are on offer, I urge you to try them. For mains, I tend to favour something meaty – ribeye of locally raised beef (€32) with Hokkaido squash and herby butter, or anything involving venison (this area is prime hunting country) – so as to justify tucking into one of Keller’s many elegant Spätburgunders (aka Pinot Noir).